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  • Grace Condon and Frankie Condon

Genocide is Never Justifiable: Israel and Hamas in Gaza

By Grace Condon and Frankie Condon

February 4, 2024

The views and opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Genocide Watch.


The UN estimates there are 1.7 million displaced people in Gaza, many of whom have fled the fighting around Khan Younis. Source: Reuters

 

The 7 October assault by Hamas on Israel enacted long-established genocidal intent by Hamas against the people of Israel. Under Article 51 of the U.N. Charter every state has the right to defend itself against attack and to protect its people against the threat of genocide.

 

However, crimes against humanity and genocide undertaken by one organization or state should never be used by another state or organization as justification for retaliatory crimes against humanity, war crimes, and acts of genocide.

 

We note Israel’s asymmetrical warfare in Gaza. Israel has committed multiple war crimes and crimes against humanity. Its warfare has also included many acts of genocide.

 

Israel launched its first strikes against Gaza on 27 October 2023. Prior to its first assault, Israeli Defense Forces called for over a million Palestinians in northern Gaza to evacuate to the south within 24 hours. Electricity had been cut, making electronic communications difficult across Gaza. Humanitarian aid organizations argued that the timeline was too short for so many civilians to be moved away from the field of war.

 

The Israeli Defense Forces then released a second message to Gazans stating: "Urgent warning! To the residents of Gaza: your presence to the North of Wadi Gaza is putting your lives at risk. Anyone who chooses not to evacuate from the North of the Gaza Strip to the South of the Gaza Strip may be identified as a partner in a terrorist organization."

 

Since Israel’s invasion began, humanitarian organizations and the world press have reported the widespread bombing of civilian targets, including but not limited to apartment complexes, mosques, roads used by civilians to escape the fighting, and hospitals.

 

At this writing, over 1.7 million people in Gaza have been displaced since October 7. Over 26,000 civilians have been killed. According to the United Nations, of the civilians killed over ten thousand (41%) are children and over 6500 (25%) are women. At least 200 medics and more than 135 UN staff have been killed. None of these dead could possibly be considered combatants. How much "collateral damage" justifies killing so many children? When is "collateral damage" so disproportionate that it makes thousands of children orphans?

 

The World Health Organization has issued dire warnings about the threat of epidemics as displaced Palestinians are crowded together in tents and makeshift shelters without sanitation facilities and clean water. The WHO has called for orders of protection of humanitarian personnel following detentions of medical personnel at Israeli checkpoints.

 

Genocide Watch bases its analyses of genocides on our understanding that genocide is a process that unfolds in stages. Each stage is, itself, a process, and the progression of stages may be non-linear and recursive. That is, stages of genocide may overlap, occur simultaneously, or repeat. The stages of genocide defined and elaborated by Genocide Watch President, Dr. Gregory Stanton, are described more fully on the Genocide Watch website.

 

Israel has long made a practice of classification and discrimination against Palestinians. With regard to classification which involves the denial of citizenship and the rights and protections attending citizenship, Haaretz reported in 2022, that since 2002 the Israeli Ministry of Population and Immigration Authority has made the application for citizenship in Israel increasingly difficult for Palestinians. Only 38% of the 16,573 applications for Israeli citizenship by Palestinians during the last two decades have been approved. Although 39% of the population of Jerusalem were Palestinian in 2022, only 5% of those were Israeli citizens.

 

The Israeli Ministry of Population reports some of the most common reasons for denial:

  • failure to demonstrate primary residence and employment in Jerusalem;

  • lack of fluency in Hebrew;

  • refusal to renounce citizenship in Jordan;

  • criminal records;

  • security concerns.

 

Refusal of citizenship for Palestinians living in Israel means that they are not permitted to vote, ensuring political disempowerment. Palestinians without citizenship cannot obtain passports and are denied certain jobs. Adi Lustigman, a lawyer representing Palestinians seeking Israeli citizenship, says noncitizenship denies Palestinians in Israel the security that accompanies citizenship. "In a world of nation-states. there is no protection for human rights and no personal security without citizenship.”

 

In February of 2022, Amnesty International issued a report charging Israel with maintaining an apartheid system against Palestinians. Amnesty International found that Israel has intentionally created a system of domination and oppression that includes “territorial fragmentation; segregation and control; dispossession of land and property; and denial of economic and social rights.” Such practices combine classification and discrimination to create a hierarchical system of oppression like the apartheid system in South Africa or the old segregation system in the southern United States.

 

Political rhetoric by Israeli government and military leaders has crossed the line from expression of righteous anger to the rhetoric of dehumanization and polarization. Since the 7 October assault by Hamas on Israel, Israel’s political leaders and Israeli Defense Forces have repeatedly used dehumanizing and polarizing language to refer to Palestinians.

 

Israel's President, Isaac Herzog, stated that “an entire nation out there is responsible” for the October 7 attack on Israel by Hamas.” “The ‘rhetoric’ about innocent civilians is ‘absolutely not true.’  

 

The Peoples Dispatch quotes Israel's Defense Minister, Yoav Gallant, referring to Palestinians as “human animals,” and boasting of having “released all the restraints” on Israeli forces. Minister Gallant asserted, "we will eliminate everything’ in Gaza.” The Israeli army’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Major General Ghassan Alian said that “human animals must be treated as such.”

 

Dehumanizing language is often used to justify war crimes and genocide. The People’s Dispatch quotes Israeli army spokesperson, Daniel Hagari, proudly announcing the dropping of “thousands of tons of munitions” on Gaza in the first days of the war. He asserted, “We’re focused on what causes maximum damage, rather than ‘accuracy'." Major General Alian informed Gazans that “there will be no electricity and no water, there will be only destruction.”

 

The Peoples Dispatch reported that in late October, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu compared Palestinians “with the biblical enemy of the Jews, the Amalekites." Netanyahu quoted from 1 Samuel 15:3, in which Samuel tells King Saul, "Thus says the Lord of hosts, 'I will punish what Amalek did to Israel in opposing them on the way, when they came up out of Egypt. Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them; but kill both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.’” In 1 Samuel 33, after Israel has slaughtered all the Amalekites, Samuel himself summoned Agag, the Amalekite king. Samuel then personally "hewed Agag in pieces before the Lord in Gilgal."

 

This Biblical passage is a divine order to commit genocide. That the President of Israel invoked this divine mandate for genocide is evidence of his genocidal intent to destroy in part the Palestinian people of Gaza. The historical parallel is precise: Palestinians in Gaza live in nearly the same area as the ancient Amalekites.

 

The preparation stage of genocide involves both militarization and indoctrination of citizens with fear of the threatening group. Four wars by its neighbors since 1948, all aimed at annihilating Israel, have required Israel to maintain its military in a state of constant alert.

 

Israelis are justifiably fearful of the genocidal intentions of Hamas, as proven by its 7 October attack. Political rhetoric by Israeli government and military leaders is now aimed at generalizing fear of Hamas to a fear of the Palestinian people as a whole.

 

Israel's deployment of its Defense Forces in Gaza and in “police actions” in the occupied West Bank portend a bleak future for Palestinians. Israel's protection of Israeli settlers' confiscation of Palestinian land, and the IDF's toleration of settler assaults on Palestinian families in the West Bank are reminiscent of the forced deportations of Indigenous populations in the U.S., Australia, Armenia, Myanmar, Bosnia, Darfur, and Artsakh.

 

The Palestinian people in Gaza now suffer persecution at the hands of the Israeli Defense Forces. Israel has long tolerated and actively encouraged the illegal expropriation of Palestinian lands by settlers in the West Bank. Israel now seems intent on forcing Gazans into smaller and smaller enclaves in tent cities in Gaza without clean water, food, fuel, or healthcare. Famine and disease are spreading, with children, women, and the elderly suffering the greatest danger.

 

Palestinian men and boys have been rounded up, stripped of their clothing, marched through the streets, and imprisoned without charge. Survivors of a December round up report being blindfolded and tortured before being released without explanation.

 

Israel’s political leaders, including Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, vehemently deny any violations of international law, asserting that the war by Israel must continue until Hamas is totally defeated. The Israeli military regularly releases videos of Hamas-built tunnels as justification for their ongoing operations in Gaza.

 

These are the signs of the genocidal process in Israel's war in Gaza:

 

  1. Israel's leaders persist in conflating all Palestinian people with Hamas. [classification];

  2. Israel’s leaders incite genocide against Palestinians by dehumanizing Palestinians as “human animals” and by summoning Biblical justification for genocide [dehumanization, polarization];

  3. Israel collectively punishes all Gazans for the actions of Hamas. Israel’s leaders deny that there are any innocent civilians in Gaza. This falsehood denies any duty to obey the laws of war, which require avoidance of attacks on civilians. [dehumanization, polarization];

  4. This collective punishment is used to justify the bombing and killing of tens of thousands of Palestinian women, children, and noncombatants, including at least 85 journalists [persecution, extermination];

  5. Israel has forcibly displaced 1.7 million Gazans from their homes into tent cities [persecution];

  6. Israel bombs and assaults hospitals where wounded civilians seek medical care and shelter [persecution, extermination];

  7. Israel bombs Palestinian refugee camps in Gaza [persecution, extermination];

  8. Israel bombs and attacks areas in Gaza to which it has directed civilians for their “safety” [persecution, extermination];

  9. Israel bombs “escape routes” it has designated for Palestinians fleeing Israeli attacks [persecution, extermination];

  10. Israel's blockade and siege of Gaza is producing widespread famine [persecution, extermination].

 

Together, these actions demonstrate intent to commit genocide, the intentional destruction in part of the Palestinian people of Gaza.

 

Until the Israeli invasion of Gaza ends with a permanent ceasefire, Israel will continue to commit four of the acts of genocide enumerated in Article 2 of the Genocide Convention:

 

  1. Israel's carpet bombing of Gaza, including of so-called "escape corridors," and "safe areas" to which it has directed Gazans, is intentionally killing members of the Palestinian ethnic and national group.

  2. Israel's displacement of 1.7 million Gazans and its blockade of food, water, fuel, and healthcare is causing serious bodily and mental harm to members of the Palestinian ethnic and national group.

  3. Israel's blockade of food, water, and fuel, its destruction of eighty percent of Gaza's homes, and its destruction of all but seven of Gaza's hospitals is deliberately inflicting on the Palestinian group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.

  4. Israel's bombing has destroyed most of the hospitals of Gaza where Palestinian mothers could safely give birth to their babies, thus imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group.

 

There is a growing consensus among international lawyers that Israel is perpetrating a genocide against the Palestinians of Gaza. A United Nations panel held by the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (CEIRPP) recently concluded with a determination that Israel’s war against Gaza is genocidal by intent.

 

We urge:

  • an immediate, permanent ceasefire,

  • release of all hostages held by Hamas,

  • lifting of the Israeli blockade of Gaza,

  • deployment of United Nations peacekeeping troops to Gaza,

  • Arab and Palestinian recognition of the legitimacy of the State of Israel,

  • U.N. and international support for a sustainable diplomatic resolution to the conflict.

 

The need for these actions grows increasingly urgent with each passing day as political instability grows across the Middle East.  The U.N., U.S., Israel, Arab League, Organization of Islamic Cooperation, European Union, NATO, and other powers must not allow this crisis to widen into a regional or international war.

 

The views and opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Genocide Watch.

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